A type of bearing was known in northern Europe in the days of Rome (100 bc) (Technology in the Ancient World, Henry Hodges, p 243). The Goths and Vandals of that era were basically societies on wheels, and moved from place to place, as grazing availability, farmland, and population pressure dictated. They used a type of wooden roller bearing on the wheels of their wagons, which were much advanced over the Roman wheel technology.
Leonardo de Vinci also designed bearings of various types. In the culture that he worked in, he could not profit from disclosing his inventions, so he kept them secret, and used them only on commissioned works. Thus, few of his inventions were put into practical use.
The technology did not exist to mass produce ball bearings until the late 18th century. Ball bearings were first patented by Philip Vaughan of England in 1794, for use on axles and wheels. E.A. Cowper adapted the ball bearing for bicycle wheels, and soon ball bearings were also used in the cranks, pedals, and stem of bicycles. When automobiles began being built, they borrowed heavily from the technological advances that were embodied in bicycle technology of the time.